When a band says they only rehearsed their set for two months, I do not expect the level of quality and pizzazz that I heard at the Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra’s Winter Concert last week.
The Blue Bop Jazz Orchestra is a student-run swing band at UM! As they warmed up in the Hussey Room at the Michigan League before the concert, I marveled at how they got the whole band to fit in such a tiny space, music stands and elbow room and all. The rhythm section was tucked away behind the piano so sadly from my seat I couldn’t see them very well. The advantage was that their sound truly filled the whole room.
They alternated between classic jazz pieces and holiday songs, lending each one a great interpretation of swing and mood. Complicated, syncopated rhythms are one of the trickiest parts of playing jazz music. The student leader/conductor of the band was also playing guitar, so the players only got a quiet count off at the beginning and then had to find their own way without a conductor for the rest of the piece. They did a fantastic job of it and had such a strong sense of rhythm with each other.
Improvisation is another defining element of jazz. I could never do improv but it’s one of my favorite things about jazz. It involves players spontaneously coming up with melodies over the chord progressions and accompaniment lines played by the rhythm section. It’s basically music composition on the spot!
The improv soloists were all so impressive. When a player was about to solo in the middle of a piece, they would stand up from their chair and rock the room for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute while the other sections backed them up, then sit back down to wild applause from the audience.
Overall I’m so glad I discovered this group and I cannot wait for their next concert. Their last piece of the evening was my favorite. I included a short clip of the beginning of it down below…let me know if you recognize the tune in the comments 🙂